Switzerland is perfect to discover by train. I traveled for 2 weeks in Switzerland by train and planned and arranged everything myself. Be inspired by my Switzerland train itinerary that includes all the scenic train journeys of Switzerland plus a DIY guide on how to arrange everything yourself!
How to Plan Your 2-Week Switzerland Train Itinerary?
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This is a very long and extensive post. Click on one of the links below to jump straight to the topic you’re most interested in.
- Interrail Global Pass in Switzerland
- Grand Train Tour of Switzerland
- Where to begin in Switzerland?
- Voralpen Express: Lucerne to St. Gallen
- Gotthard Panorama Express: Lucerne to Lugano
- Bernina Express: Lugano to St. Moritz
- Glacier Express: St. Moritz to Zermatt
- Golden Pass Line: Montreux to Lucerne
- Steepest Cogwheel Train to Mt. Pilatus
- Rochers de Naye
- Chocolate Train
- Jungfraujoch Top of Europe
- Planning your own trip
- Practical Tips
- Useful Links
- Where to stay?
My Switzerland Train Tour with Interrail
For our Switzerland train tour, we used our Interrail Global passes. With this pass, we were allowed 10 train days in a period of 1 month. As we only had 2 weeks of holiday, we decided to cram in as much as possible and use our train pass to take all the scenic train journeys in Switzerland. We traveled for 15 days in September and I arranged everything myself.
Interrail Global Pass
For people unfamiliar with the Interrail Global Train Pass, let me briefly capture the main benefits of this pass. The Interrail Global Pass offers you free train travel in all countries of Europe. You can choose different passes but Interrail sponsored us with 2 Global Passes.
On a few of our travels, we could just hop on a train and not pay anything extra. But certain train journeys in Switzerland have a mandatory reservation fee. For more information on Interrail or Eurail (for non-EU residents) check this website or here for non-EU resident.
2 weeks in Switzerland Itinerary
Switzerland is not a big country and the public transport system works fast, efficient and is very reliable. Yet, 2 weeks was not enough to explore the whole of Switzerland. We didn’t visit the capital Bern, nor did we explore Zürich or Geneva. So what did we do? We took Switzerland’s most scenic train journeys! In general, we took a scenic train ride every other day and used the day in between to explore the surrounding area.
Did we see the whole of county? Yes and no. It was a whirlwind Switzerland train tour. Mainly focusing on the railway journeys. But, you can still use my guide, scrap out anything you don’t like and add extra days in between. This post is to show you that you CAN do the most scenic train journeys of Switzerland, all in only 2 weeks.
Grand Switzerland Train Tour
When I was researching our train trip in Switzerland, I found the Grand Train Tour of Switzerland. A great inspirational website by the Swiss tourism board with amazing images and a cool feature where you see a Switzerland train map. They show things to see along the route and places of interest to stop. However, I didn’t find any practical information about train numbers, journey times, best time to travel and how to arrange all of this on your own. Or even via an agency or tour operator to help you along.
So.. I trusted the good old internet and gathered all the information myself. And I must admit, it was not easy. Although I think of myself as a pretty savvy travel planner, I did have some difficulties coming up with a logic route without tracing back our steps. In the end, when I wanted to reserve all the mandatory seat reservations on the Swiss trains, I encountered the problem of tickets being fully booked. In the end, I decided to complete throw our Switzerland itinerary upside down and we ended up starting at the end of the previous itinerary.
Our two week Switzerland train itinerary
Before you go ahead and copy everything I’ve done, here are some things to know about us and our travel style. We only had two weeks but the same itinerary can be done in a much more relaxed pace in 3 weeks. When you have less time, you really need to cut out some train journeys in Switzerland.
We are a couple in our mid-thirties and we are reasonably fit. We have no problems to walk with a mid-sized backpack and we have no problems getting on and off a train multiple times in a day. I get bored easily, so I like to travel in a high pace. Due to a huge FOMO, I wanted to cram as much sights and train journeys in as possible.
Read more: What to pack for train travel in Europe?
Where to arrive for your Switzerland train tour?
We traveled from the Netherlands via a quick and direct train from Cologne to Basel. As Basel is situated in the north of the country and it has Roman Ruins nearby, we made a 1 night stop here. Otherwise we might have continued on to Lucerne. Either Lucerne or Zürich are great places to start your Switzerland train itinerary. But as you’ll see when you continue reading, my train itinerary in Switzerland is a loop, so basically, you can start anywhere on the route and circle back.
One day in Basel Switzerland
In our case, we arrived in Basel at 4pm and had enough time to rest a bit, do a walking tour of the city, try our first cheese fondue of the trip and sleep in a bit. We went to visit the Roman Ruins of Augusta Raurica before continuing our journey to Lucerne.
We stayed at the Rheinfelderhof in Klein Basel. Due to its central location and spacious room with extensive breakfast, I found it very good value for money.
Read more: One day in Basel Switzerland
Arrive to Lucerne by train
I didn’t really plan our trip from Basel to Lucerne as we just took a regular train. There are no scenic train journeys between Basel and Lucerne so we just took the first train we could find when we arrived at the train station. As I wasn’t able to find a decent priced accommodation in Lucerne centre, I opted for a 3-night stay at an AirBnB at a nearby village. This offered us the option to do grocery shopping and cook our own breakfast, bring a packed lunch and cook dinner.
One of the things we did during our stay in Lucerne was take the steepest cogwheel train up to Mt. Pilatus and enjoy the view. Although not really one of the great scenic train rides of Switzerland, I do want to mention it here as I really enjoyed the views over Lake Lucerne and the mountains in the distance.
Voralpen Express: Lucerne to St. Gallen
Instead of packing our bags again, we decided to stay near Lucerne and take one of Switzerland’s scenic train journeys as a day trip. From Lucerne we took the Voralpen Express or Pre-Alpine Express to the city of St. Gallen in the east of the country. Famous for its library and church, St. Gallen was a nice place to have lunch but the journey on the Voralpen Express was a perfect introduction to how scenic Switzerland really is.
We left in the early morning, when the mountain dew was residing, leaving a hazy blanket over the lakes and green hills we passed. I’m calling them hills as they were definitely not mountains, but I’d rather not climb them as they looked pretty steep. We passed numerous lakes and bridges and saw some monasteries in the distance.
The Voralpen Express was one of the shortest scenic train rides, in only 2 hours we traveled from Lucerne to St. Gallen. The Voralpen Express, (VAE) is operated by the SOB, the Südostbahn (South East Railway) almost 13 times a day. You can also travel from Lucerne to St. Gallen via Zürich but this is not direct on that train doesn’t have panoramic windows.
You don’t need a reservation to take the Pre Alpine Express and no extra fees apply except for a valid train ticket.
For more details read Voralpen Express Lucerne to St. Gallen
Rhine Falls and Zürich
As we didn’t want to go to St. Gallen and return on the same route, we decided to check out St. Gallen and then continue our train trip along the Bodensee and continue towards the Rhine falls. The Grand Train Tour of Switzerland also mentions that stretch from Zürich via Schaffhausen to St. Gallen on their website but in my personal opinion, the train journey is not that interesting. As a matter of fact, it took us nearly 2 hours on the super slow regional train that stops at
It was very tedious and took a lot of patience. What I like about train travel is the repetitive sound and motion of the train on the rails and that you see the landscape glide by as you pass it. But on the St. Gallen to Schaffhausen (the S8 regional train) it was more of a hiccup sprint and stop journey. But… It was worth it in the end as we went to Neuhausen am Rheinfall to see the Rhine falls which was spectacular and very very impressive. So much water rushing past you and the dramatic scenery around it. I do agree with the Grand Switzerland Train Tour to include the Rhine Falls, I just think there are less obnoxious routes to get there.
Gotthard Panorama Express: Lucerne to Lugano
The next day, we left Lucerne behind us as we boarded a boat! Yes, how amazing is that! Boat rides are definitely part of the best Switzerland itinerary and we did it on the Wilhelm Tell Express or the Gotthard Panorama Express. Both are the same thing, just 2 different names.
We first took the boat across Lake Lucerne to see all the little villages and enjoy the sunshine on our faces. We disembarked at Flüelen and waiting for the panoramic train to arrive. Just a couple of minutes later, the Gotthard Panorama Express glided into the station of Flüelen.
This felt like a proper panoramic Swiss railway journey! Excited I settled into my leather seat and gawked at the scenery beyond the bright big panoramic windows. It was spectacular. We had a bright and sunny day and the landscape around us was like a big green canvas and we glided right through it.
The Gotthard Panorama Express is all about the little town of Wassen that you’ll pass 3 times and the amazing viaducts of the Gotthard Pass. The train even slowed down when we passed through the Gotthard Tunnel, so we could learn about this major feat of engineering. I found the Gotthard Panorama Express very interesting and I learned a lot. And it was a great way to cut through Switzerland from central Lucerne to southern Lugano.
Read all about our train trip on the Gotthard Panorama Express
Explore Lugano for 1 day
As soon as we left the Gotthard Tunnel, it felt like we had arrived in Italy. Pastel colored houses, a softer glow in the air and pizzerias in the little villages we passed. Lugano felt exactly the same. I have to admit, we didn’t go into Lugano city. We just arrived at the train station of Lugano and took a bus to our self catered hotel. As we just had a full day of travel, we went grocery shopping and took things easy for the night. The next day, we set out the explore the San Salvatore mountain on the funicular and walked down to the lovely village of Morcote. If you don’t like hiking, you can also use this day to explore Lugano or the nearby castles of Bellinzona.
We stayed for 2 nights in Lugano at one of the cheapest hotels I could find with a kitchen and they had washing machines for us to use which came in quite useful. The room was very basic and didn’t have any ambiance but it did the trick. Click here to see if this might be an option for you.
Bernina Express Train: Lugano to St. Moritz
The next morning, we packed up our bags again and returned to the train station. But not to take the train. Instead we took the bus! We took the Bernina Bus from Lugano to the Italian city of Tirano. The bright red bus turned up at the parking lot and I immediately got excited. The big windows gave us perfect views of the Lake of Lugano and Lake Como. It was absolutely spectacular.
In little over 2 hours, we arrived at Tirano and used our hour in Italy to use our free European Union roaming on our phones to post some pictures on Instagram and we stocked up on some cheaper snacks for the next leg of our Swiss railways journey.
Sometimes dreams come true and the Bernina Express train from Tirano to St. Moritz was nothing short than a train lover’s dream come true. What a spectacular route from start to finish that was. But isn’t the Bernina Express a hype? Read exactly what I think of the Bernina Express here, but I can assure you, the Bernina Express is a must do if you’re in Switzerland for the train travel.
The Bernina Express is mandatory for anyone who likes sweeping scenery, impressive altitude gain on the train and wants to enjoy some of the best views of Switzerland. All of this while you’re seating in luxurious seats and can order drinks and lunch as you go. (We didn’t as we stocked up on snacks in Italy). I spoke to a woman who took the Bernina Express as a day trip from St. Moritz. She went back and forth on the same route but this is the one time I can imagine that it is totally worth it. There is so much to see on the route, one journey is not enough.
One day in St. Moritz.
When I was planning our 15-day Switzerland itinerary via train, I figured after each long travel day, we would have 1 day to rest and stay in 1 place. This would give us 2 nights in each place and cut down on packing up too much. I still believe in this philosophy, but I regret the extra day we took in St. Moritz. Yes, it was nice to rest a bit but as we’re not posh, we don’t ski and it was September, I felt quite bored in St. Moritz. Looking back, we should have continued our travel plan and add the extra day later in our itinerary in Zermatt or in the Jungfraujoch area.
Glacier Express: St. Moritz to Zermatt
The next morning, we woke up at 6am as our train to Chur left at 7am. When I wanted to book the mandatory reservations for the Glacier Express, all spots were sold out. We could not take the 10am or 11am train from St. Moritz or Chur to Zermatt. In a desperate attempt not the change our plans, we took a 7am train from St. Moritz to Chur and were scheduled to take the afternoon train from Chur to Zermatt.
The morning journey was spectacular. As the sun was rising above the mountains, she casted her golden rays over the Alps and the green meadows in between. We had the whole train compartment to ourselves and enjoyed one of the most impressive views of Switzerland as we passed the Landwasser Viaduct.
But the early morning took its toll on us. As we arrived in Chur with a whole afternoon to spare and sore feet from already walking that much. We decided to not take the Glacier Express Panoramic train from Chur to Zermatt. Instead we took the regional train that follows the same route and would bring us to Zermatt 5 hours earlier. Although it was a long travel day, we still saw the same scenery as the Glacier Express. We lost the money in our reservation fee (as it’s non-refundable) but I was glad we took the regional train. And I could write a comparison story about it too!
One Day in Zermatt
Although I set out to see Switzerland by train in our 2 week itinerary, my best day was not a train day. I cannot believe I dare to admit this in writing. Personally, my best day was the day we went hiking in Zermatt. Although I woke up with a bad cold, we decided to hike the 5-Seen Weg in the mountains of Zermatt. The day could not have been more perfect with crips clear skies, the impressive Matterhorn mountain looming at the horizon and a great day hiking with my boyfriend. Yes, I was more dead than alive at the end of the day but it was gorgeous.
In case you’re wondering if you should take the Glacier Express all the way to Zermatt, then I’d recommend you do. Zermatt is such a cute village with an amazing vibe. I felt we could have hopped from one bar to the next, drinking beer, having fondue and just relax for a bit.
We stayed in an amazing apartment right in the center or town that I rented via AirBnB. It was big and the kitchen was amazing. And, it was the cheapest accommodation of our two weeks in Switzerland.
Read more: 5 Lake Hike in Zermatt
Zermatt to Montreux: along the Rhône River
Although I enjoyed hiking in the mountains around Zermatt, I was also excited to board the train, again, and continue our Swiss train journey. We took the regional train from Zermatt to Montreux. Although not a panoramic train, the route was quite impressive as we followed the Rhône River with her grape packed hills until we reached Lake Geneva. The train continued along the shore of the lake, giving us our first glimpses of the famous lake. We stopped in Montreux but you can continue to Geneva is you like.
3 nights in Montreux
We stayed in Montreux at the Royal Plaza Montreux & Spa Hotel for 3 nights. We would use Montreux mainly as a base to explore the region and for more train travel the following day, but the town itself surprised me.
But we didn’t just eat cheese fondue, walk along the mediterranean flower beds and take up all the sun shine we could find. We also took more Swiss railway journeys while we stayed in Montreux.
Cogwheel Train to Rochers de Naye
We arrived quite early in Montreux and figured we take one of the scenic day trips up to the hills above Montreux and enjoy the view. We took the little train to Rochers de Naye that has a breathtaking view across Lake Geneva. Fun thing was that we spotted some ground hogs but the top attraction really is the view.
Chocolate Train to Gruyère and Broc
Was it was good as it sounds? A train that brings you to a cheese factory and a chocolate factory. Well, let me save you the disappointment, the name sounds fancier than the actual train trip. I was utterly disappointed actually. Yes, the 1-hour ride on the vintage Pullman train was amazing. The pluche seating and the wooden clad benches transformed you back to the good old days of luxurious train travel. But the transport by bus to the cheese factory in Gruyère was a disappointment. The visit to the Gruyère cheese factory was a waste of time as the audio tour didn’t tell anything interesting and you watch everything from above.
The visit to the town of Gruyère was nice. It was my boyfriend’s birthday so we enjoyed the day in the sun and indulged in a gigantic ice cream sunday. The visit to the Broc chocolate factory was ok. It was nice to see vintage advertisement and talk to the staff about the mass production of chocolate products but it felt like a commercial tourist trap.
All in all not the worst day I ever spent traveling but it costed us 1 valuable day of our train pass and we had to pay nearly 100€ in ‘reservation fees’ on top of that. If you think that you’ll follow the same route on the Golden Pass Line train route, then in my personal opinion, the Chocolate Train is not worth it.
Golden Pass Line: Montreux to Lucerne
Something that was worth it, was the Golden Pass Line from Montreux to Lucerne. It was basically a way to get from the west of Switzerland back to the middle part but this scenic train journey surprised me a lot. I felt the Golden Pass Train route has a lot to offer as it shows some typical stereotype scenery of Switzerland. But it also covers a lot of ground and although this was our 11th scenic train trip in Switzerland, I was still captured by the landscape and the flow of the train.
Read more: Golden Pass Line from Montreux to Lucerne
Jungfraujoch, Top of Europe Train station
One of the reasons to take the Golden Pass Train, is because it stops in Interlaken and Interlaken is the gateway to the Jungfraujoch region. We only had 1 night in the village of Wengen but this meant we had 2 options to travel to the Top of Europe Jungfraujoch station. Either the afternoon of our arrival or the next morning.
After nearly 2 weeks of sunshine in Switzerland, this was one of our very few clouded days. It even rained a bit in the afternoon. Therefor, we decided to take the train up the Jungfraujoch the next morning.
Although the round trip by train to the Jungfraujoch was expensive and we only got a 25% discount with our Global Rail passes, I’m glad we did visit the Jungfraujoch as it was one of the most spectacular views I’ve ever seen. It’s not that often you get to stand at 3.454m (11.332ft) and enjoy the mountains around you.
We had a 1-night stay at the Victoria Hotel & Spa Lauberhorn in Wengen, which was perfect to explore the region.
Read all about our journey to Jungfraujoch Top of Europe station
Two weeks Switzerland Itinerary by Train
After our visit to the Jungfraujoch, we went back to Interlaken and continued on the Golden Pass Line to Lucerne. Basically we came full circle as we recognised Mt. Pilatus and saw the outline of the city which we left earlier behind by boat. With one evening to spare, we continued to Zürich and explored the city for some dinner. The next morning, we had to depart early to return home again but otherwise we could have explore Zürich by day.
Planning your 2 week train itinerary Switzerland
In the end, we spent 15 nights in Switzerland. We took the major 5 panoramic train journeys around the country and we took 6 scenic day trips (by train) in Switzerland. This made a full circle in Switzerland and saw north, south, east and west. We covered the German speaking part, the Italian speaking part and the French part. We traveled over 1.500 km (945 miles) per train almost all of it in Switzerland, without backtracking a lot.
But it wasn’t easy. It took me a good portion of my evenings, looking at maps, familiarizing myself with the names of the train routes around Switzerland and the places and little towns. Finding affordable places to stay was also mission impossible and making the mandatory train reservations was nerve racking.
Highlight first or save the best for last
When I first started planning our Switzerland train trip, I first planned to go from Lucerne to Montreux with a visit to the Jungfraujoch and then onwards to the east. If you’ve read the above, you’ll see I actually went 100% the other way around. Why?
After careful deliberation, I realised we’d be doing the Voralpen Express and St. Gallen last. Although they were really nice trips and worth our time, I might have had a different opinion if we’d been traveling through the actual Alps first. In our first plan, we’d visit the Jungfraujoch first. Ticking off one of our must-do’s first seemed like a good plan, but with our actual itinerary we slowly built up to the highest highlight. Saving the best for last is always a good idea to prevent travel fatigue and boredom.
My practical tips for planning your train itinerary in Switzerland
- Check out my Switzerland train map to see my 2 week Switzerland train itinerary
- Download the Swiss train app to research route times (for Apple here and for Android here). Their website is patchy and glitchy but I found the SBB app works really well for all areas in Switzerland.
- Familiarize yourself with all the rules of your train pass. Of course, you can also just buy separate tickets but a Switzerland train pass will save you money
- Use a spreadsheet. Like mine. Why don’t you join my mailing list, download mine and use the data I’ve gathered to make your own spreadsheet. Click here.
- Make reservations for your train tickets 3 months in advance via below sites
- After making the train reservations, make hotel bookings via this website or use Airbnb (or steel my recommendations with a list of all our accommodations below).
Read more: Why Trains are better than Planes in Europe
Quick and Easy Links for Switzerland Train Travel
- Voralpen Express, no reservation needed, you can buy a ticket at the station or use your train pass.
- Gotthard Panorama Express, you can book the boat tickets in the harbour but you need to make a reservation for the train from Flüelen to Lugano. (or try your luck and pay the conductor)
- Bernina Express, a reservation is mandatory. You need to make separate reservations for the bus and the train
- Glacier Express, also mandatory reservation, although the local train follows the same route and no reservation is needed
- Golden Pass Train, very odd website. It’s often down so keep trying
Read more: Train Travel Bucket List
Where to stay during your 2 week Swiss train adventure?
Here are the links of the hotels and AirBnB’s where we stayed during our 2 weeks in Switzerland. I paid for all myself, except for the hotel in Montreux where we received a discounted stay. But as always, all opinions are my own. All hotels were carefully selected by me for their location from the train station and their price compared to value.
- 1 night in Basel at Rheinfelderhof hotel.
- 3 nights at AirBnB in Eschenbach, 20 minutes by train from Lucerne in this apartment
- 2 nights at basic self-catering hotel in Lugano, very basic but budget stay at Lugano Center Guesthouse
- 2 nights in St.Moritz at budget room with shared bathroom at Petit Steffani Hostel
- and 2 nights in downtown Zermatt in a spacious apartment, rented via AirBnB. I wanted to move in and live here forever
- 3 nights in Montreux at the Royal Plaza Montreux and Spa with sweeping views of Lake Geneva
- 1 night in Wengen to visit the Jungfraujoch at the Hotel & Spa Victoria Lauberhorn. This was a last night splurge where we enjoyed the view, the spa and the breakfast.
- 1 final night to catch the early train home from Zürich. We stayed at a budget hotel Montana near the train station
Your 15-day train trip to Switzerland
Wow, are you still with me? I love you for reading that much. The thing is, this 2 week train trip to Switzerland really was a trip of a lifetime and I have so many details to share and try to cram them all into this post. I’m sure with my tips, you can stitch together your own train itinerary with the best train trips Switzerland has to offer.
Have you done a train trip through Switzerland? Which was your most favorite train journey? How did you arrange everything? Let me know in the comment section below!
The Pinterest images above are with special thanks to Switzerland Tourism – BAFU and Rhaetische Bahn/Swiss Travel System.
Interrail sponsored me with a Global Rail Pass in first class. For all the other costs, I paid in full myself and all my opinions are my own. This post does contains affiliate links. If you decide to book something via one of my links, I’ll earn a small commission. This is at no extra costs to you.